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Remarks by Foreign Minister Lavrov during Press Conference on 18th January, 2021

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Question: Good afternoon, Mr. Minister. I had interviewed you during your visit to Delhi for Raisina Dialogue. Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of the strategic partnership between India and Russia and the excellent relations between President Putin and PM Modi. How do you see the evolution of the India-Russia ties in the changing geopolitics, particularly in the context of the threat of sanctions from certain countries on the India-Russia defence trade, including the S-400 system?

FM Lavrov: “Actually, India-Russia partnership is called slightly differently. You called it “Strategic Partnership” – this was the original title. Some years later, Indian side proposed to call it “Privileged Strategic Partnership”. A few years ago, when PM Modi became the Head of Government, we changed it to “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership”. I believe there is further room for improvement, but the current terminology indicates the special kind of relationship.

India is a very close, very strategic, very special, and very privileged partner. Take the spheres of economy, innovation, military-technical and High-Tech cooperation. India is one of our closest partners on all these issues. Of course, we have close political coordination at the UN and BRICS. We did a lot to make sure that India, together with Pakistan, joins the SCO. I think we now have a configuration, which is very representative to promote constructive positive, stabilizing ideas for the Eurasian region and, in broader terms, for the Asia-Pacific.

We discussed with our Indian friends at all levels (President-PM, Ministers, Experts, consultants) in a very open way, both practical things and conceptual issues, including issues emanating from the new concept called the “Indo-Pacific strategy”. We don’t believe that it is just a terminological change, because if you take it literally, from the geographical point of view, then “Indo” means all littoral states of the Indian Ocean, but East Africa, we are told, is not included in the Indo-Pacific strategy. Persian Gulf, which is a part of the Indian Ocean, is not included in the Indo-Pacific strategy. What is included, as the American sponsors of this concept say repeatedly, is the “Quad” - India, Australia, Japan and USA”, which, as Mike Pompeo recently said, is the backbone of free and open Indo-Pacific region. We have reasons to believe that when Australia, Japan, and USA promote this format, and they don’t even hide it, they almost openly say that it is important to ensure stability in South China Sea and to contain China.

I discussed it with my good friend FM Jaishankar of India and our Indian colleagues fully understand that some countries would like to use the Indo Pacific concept in a manner which is not inclusive and is confrontational. ASEAN, by the way, feels the same way. They are concerned that this aggressive promotion of Indo-Pacific concept would undermine the central role of ASEAN in the Asia-Pacific region and in all configurations, including East Asia Summit, which have been accepted as ASEAN-centred for so many years. I know this issue is actively discussed in India and I know that India is not going to move this Indo-Pacific cooperation in a way which would be not positive and constructive. I say this in so much detail because some of my previous statements on this issue have been widely discussed in India, by media which are not very friendly towards the Indian Government, but we don’t want any misunderstanding with our friends – the Indian people.

We are friends with India and we are doing utmost to make sure that India and China, our two great friends and brothers, live in peace with each other. This is the policy which Russia promotes not only at the BRICS or SCO but at the special trilateral format, the RIC mechanism, which was established in the late 90s and is still functioning. The last meeting of RIC Ministers took place in Moscow in September 2020. We adopted a Joint Communique, recognizing the role of the three countries in promoting peace, stability, and security in Asia and the world. I’m gratified that apart from political dialogue between the three countries, there are plenty of formats to promote people-to-people contact, including academic, youth, and many others. I think that we all are wise enough to see that if a strategy is indeed intended as being non-inclusive and, rather, divisive, then the wisdom of our three countries would certainly prevail. In no way our closest cooperation and partnership with India is going to be affected. The sincere, open, and frank dialogue, even on the issues where both sides do not see 100% eye-to-eye is the key to further development of our friendship.”